Looking for pinch-me-I’m-dreaming scenery, historical heritage or that next grand adventure? Why not charter a yacht?
No, not something where you tie the bowline yourself – who wants to toil on vacation! We’re talking a sleek beauty that would make Jack Sparrow drool with envy, and you can charter a crewed yacht just for one or two couples, even if on a budget.
The number of appealing yacht charter destinations around the globe continues to grow as vacationers and adventurers explore new territories by chartered yacht. They range from the charter-friendly Bahamas and Mediterranean to more remote places like the Indian Ocean and even Antarctica.
So pick your yacht. Pack your swimsuit and Ray-Bans. And venture off on your own unforgettable voyage.
Here are the 3 top yachting destinations:
1. British Virgin Islands (BVIs)
The Caribbean is home to roughly 7,000 islands, cays and islets, all with their own tropical vibe. But don’t think just sandy beaches, gin-clear waters and palm fronds waving overhead (though there’s nothing wrong with that). European colonialism, the African slave trade and native Indian tribes have all played a part in shaping the local architecture, music, food and customs. So you’re in for a diverse cultural experience as well as a beach escape when you ply the Caribbean waters.
The British Virgin Islands – with over 50 islands spanning 1,000 square miles – probably offer the quintessential tropical island experience in the Caribbean (and they’re best explored by your own private yacht).
Virgin Gorda is one of the largest of the BVIs. An island of rolling hills, it’s famous for The Baths. This collection of cottage-sized granite boulders at the water’s edge has created a wondrous labyrinth of caves and grottos, ideal for snorkeling and rock scrambling.
Jost Van Dyke:
At tiny Jost Van Dyke, drop into Foxy’s. We wouldn’t mind bumping into Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg or Kelsey Grammer at this legendary beach bar – they’ve all tossed back a drink or two here.
Anegada (“drowned land” in Spanish) is the island of shipwrecks. Over 300 offshore wrecks of Spanish galleons, American privateers and British warships lure scuba divers to discover their nooks and crannies. And if you love lobster, you’re in for a treat – Anegada lobster is the best in the Caribbean (the island even hosts an annual Anegada Lobster Festival).
Oh, and don’t overlook the pink flamingoes in the salt ponds at the western end of the island.
So many other islands too:
Other popular spots in the BVIs include Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island (check out the chill Cooper Island Beach Club) and Sandy Spit, an oh-so-perfect uninhabited islet encircled by talc-white sand, off Green Cay.
2. Eastern Mediterranean
Romantic Venice, with its beautiful Grand Canal lined by palaces and baroque churches. Istanbul, with its mosques and bazaars and exotic east-meets-west culture. These cities are on your travel bucket list, right? Depending on your itinerary, your eastern Med yacht trip could take you there and to one or more of these destinations too:
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece:
You can only reach this extraordinary beach by boat. The steep limestone cliffs surround some of the clearest water you’ll ever see. And what’s that striking rusted hulk on the white sand? The wreck of the freightliner Panagiotis. It ran aground in 1981 after a chase by the Greek navy, which suspected it of smuggling contraband (cigarettes, and maybe also wine and women).
Navagio Beach is now one of the most famously photographed beaches in Greece. For a great travel shot, head up to the Agios Gergio Kremnao monastery 600 feet above the wreck – there’s a viewing platform where many pictures are taken.
Dating back to the 12th century, this historic Croatian city is a true delight. Be sure to walk around on top of the massive stone wall surrounding the Old City.
Looking down, you’ll see monasteries, churches, palaces and outdoor cafés, along with children playing soccer, and you can peek through windows of people living in apartments and homes built into the wall.
Also visit the Franciscan Monastery, which has the third oldest pharmacy in Europe. Monks still use the medieval bowls and instruments to make medicines.
Volcanic Santorini is often voted the best island in the world. Topped with white sugar-cube villages, it looks like a slice of vanilla-frosted chocolate cake with a huge bite taken out. Anchor off the capital of Fira, and you can ride a donkey up the 588 steps to get from the port to the town (or walk or take the cable car).
At sunset, people gather in the fairytale town of Oia to photograph the sky as it turns blood orange.
To stretch out your sea legs, plan to hike from Oia along the rim of the volcanic crater to Fira – stupendous sea views on either side will amply reward you.
3. Western Mediterranean
Sun-drenched beaches, hidden coves and ports-of-call favored by celebrities (hello Beyoncé) – welcome to the western Mediterranean! Easy to get to from major centers around the world, it’s a much-loved haunt for the super-yacht crowd.
Many consider Majorca (or Mallorca) the most attractive of the Spanish islands. Of course, once docked, you must see the Gothic cathedral and its magnificent flying buttresses in the capital, Palma de Majorca. And maybe shop for shoes – we counted dozens of shoe stores!
For sights outside the city, take the vintage narrow-gauge train that clackety-clacks through 13 tunnels on a one-hour scenic ride to the town of Soller.
Further up the north coast, Deia is a charming artists’ village with a sweet swimming cove.
Manarola, Liguria, Italy:
One of the most authentic coastal Italian villages, tiny Manarola is part of the Cinque Terre chain along the Italian Riviera. Rainbow-colored, Genoese-style tower houses cling to the steep rocky coast, all vying for views of the sea below.
There’s a lovely seaside walk (in fact, called the “Love Walk”) from Manarola to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five Cinque Terre villages – only 20 minutes, so no excuses! And if you want to cool off with a swim, simply dive off the rocks beside the miniature harbor.
Sure, there’s St. Tropez and the French Riviera. But Corsica is just so picturesque and diverse, it would be a shame to omit from your yacht trip.
You’ll recall Napoleon Bonaparte came from Corsica. In the seaside capital of Ajaccio, you can visit the house he was born in (in 1769), now a museum. Also pop into the superb Palais Fesch-Musee des Beaux Arts, established by his uncle, showcasing priceless canvases by Botticelli, Bellini, Titian and Veronese.
And don’t miss cruising by the towering red granite cliffs in the Scandola Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and ospreys.
We’ve personally visited several of the yachting destinations here. And we had fun researching the other places which we want to personally explore. We hear Corsica calling!
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.